At the 39A launch pad in Cape Cao, Florida, a SpaceX “four-handed” Falcon 9 rocket carried four astronauts and the “Liberty” Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.
The four astronauts on the Crew4 mission include three NASA astronauts and an Italian female astronaut: Commander Shel Lindgren (second flight), pilot Robert Hines (first flight), and mission specialist Thurmantha Christopheretti (second flight), mission specialist Jessica Watkins (first flight).
The Falcon 9 rocket used this time is numbered B1067-4, an old rocket that has been launched four times. About nine minutes after launch, the rocket successfully returned to land on a maritime recovery ship in the Atlantic Ocean, becoming a “five-handed rocket”.
Dr. Shel Lindgren, a certified emergency physician, and former flight surgeon were on his second trip to the International Space Station after spending 141 days in orbit on the ISS in 2015, and he was assigned as Commander of the mission.
On his last expedition, he conducted two spacewalks and participated in more than 100 science projects, including a space vegetable experiment, marking the first time a U.S. crew member has eaten a crop grown in orbit.
Moreover, Watkins is a 2017 NASA astronaut candidate. She is a professional in the field of geology and holds a BA in Geology and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Geology from UCLA.
During her undergraduate studies, she conducted research on Martian soils at NASA’s Ames Research Center, which contributed to the completion of the Phoenix Mars rover mission; as a graduate student, she also participated in research at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In addition, she was the chief geologist for NASA’s “Mars Desert Research Station Simulation Mission” and a member of NASA’s “Desert Research and Technology Research Simulation Mission”.
After becoming a Crew 4 crew member, Watkins will become the first African-American woman to fly a long-term mission on the International Space Station. She will be the first of only seven other black astronauts to have boarded the ISS since its establishment more than 20 years ago.
Italian female astronaut Themantha Cristoforetti was selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in May 2009. She spent 200 days in space and proved her command ability in NASA’s NEEMO23 mission.
In 2001, Cristoforetti joined the Italian Air Force and entered the Air Force Academy as an officer candidate. It is worth mentioning that she came to China in 2017 and participated in the marine lifesaving training in Yantai, Shandong with ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer.
Furthermore, four astronauts will stay on the International Space Station for 6 months, including more than 200 experiments. Starting in 2020, SpaceX launched its first astronauts to the International Space Station with the Crew Dragon spacecraft and has been steadily carrying out NASA’s missions to the International Space Station since then.
A few days ago, due to the poor landing conditions of the Axiom 1 mission flown by SpaceX, the return to Florida waters was delayed for 7 days, resulting in the delay of the Crew4 launch mission.